To All The Dolls I’ve Loved Before: Crissy and Velvet

One day last summer as I was driving somewhere, it dawned on me where my obsession with American Girl dolls comes from. It all goes back to a doll I had from my childhood. I always thought she was a Velvet doll, but I’ve since found out otherwise. Keep reading.

If you aren’t familiar with Crissy and Velvet, I’ll enlighten you. Made by Ideal, Crissy was introduced in 1969. She had flaming red hair with a unique twist to it–you could make it “grow”. And thanks to a knob on her back, you could make it short again. Push the button on her stomach and pull–long again! It was really a pretty clever idea and interestingly enough, not an original one. Ideal had acquired a closed company called American Character Doll Company who had originated the idea with their Tressy and Cricket dolls. Crissy was 18 inches tall.

A friend of mine had one of the first Crissy dolls which was pretty cool because like Crissy, she had red hair. I thought Crissy was cute, but I didn’t really want her. My mom apparently thought she was cool too, and the following Christmas, I got one. Mine came in a teal satin type dress with matching shoes. I did play with her, but I wasn’t in love with her.

kerry velvet crissy
Kerry, Velvet and Crissy Photo courtesy of Julie Newman’s 70’s Time Capsule

The following Christmas my mom decided to get me another doll in the line. This is where some confusion began that I’ve just recently cleared up. Velvet was introduced and was designed to be Crissy’s little cousin. At only 15 inches tall she was the perfect size for a girl my age (I would have been 7 at the time). She also had the “growing” hair mechanism. Until last summer, I thought I had a brunette Velvet doll. My doll came in exactly the same outfit as the Velvet doll (a purple velvet dress), adding to more confusion. After doing some research, I’ve discovered that I didn’t have a white brunette Velvet, but a Mia doll! (there was a black/African American Velvet version that had dark hair.) Mia was supposed to be one of Velvet’s friends.  Velvet was only ever available as a blonde in the Caucasian version.   I suspect that the reason for the confusion with the outfit is that she may have been a catalog exclusive through either Sears, JCPenney or Montgomery Wards, my mom was a huge catalog shopper and frequently bought more unusual dolls when she could. The outfit shown on most photos of Mia dolls that I came across in doing research, I’d never seen before!

mia
Photo of Mia from http://www.museumofplay.org

 

I can say in all honesty that she was probably my favorite doll of that era. Velvet/Mia (I called her Velvet, hey, I was 7 and didn’t know the difference!) went a lot of places with me, and I played with her quite a bit. I have a distinct memory of my 8th birthday involving her. Right around lunchtime, a woman showed up at our house who had made doll clothing that fit these dolls, and I picked out a couple of outfits that my mom bought me as part of my birthday present. I only remember one of these outfits now, a little pair of white flannel pj’s, trimmed in pink. I also remember dressing up Velvet/Mia in one of the new outfits and she went out to dinner with us, my parents had arranged for all of us to go out to celebrate with friends of theirs, I can still picture her sitting in a chair by herself beside me.

Poor Velvet/Mia though, she didn’t know she was about to be jilted. Big time. I discovered Barbie, and it was all over. I did keep Velvet/Mia for a long time, but she didn’t get played with all that much. I mean, seriously, how can you compete with someone who has a Dream House, a swimming pool, a camper and her own airplane???? Eventually I donated her to charity, and hopefully some little girl loved her as much as I did. At least until she discovered Barbie too.

Ideal continued to make Crissy and her friends for several years, and in several different styles: Movin’ Groovin’ Crissy, Talky Crissy, Look Around Crissy and even a Baby Crissy (just to name a few). They also introduced a number of different friends. I’m not exactly sure when Crissy and her gang were phased out, but Ideal Toys went defunct in 1997.

I do have fond memories of her, and on that day last summer, I realized just how similar she was to American Girl in terms of size and idea of a little girl/young girl doll. Not an infant, not a fashion model, but a young girl. With the dark haired version I had, she resembled Samantha and Molly quite a bit, just with blue eyes. Suddenly everything made sense: I’m just reliving my childhood with these dolls! Maybe someday I’ll buy a dark haired, blue eyed American Girl doll and I can name her Velvet. Or Mia. Oh, never mind!!!

Here’s a commercial showing the same Crissy doll I had and a Velvet doll:

 

 

I have to thank Velvet/Mia for one thing:  because of my trying to figure out who I had, I became friends with Sharry at Julie Newman’s 70’s Time Capsule.   I noticed her Crissy, Velvet and Kerry dolls (Kerry was another doll in the line) on her website, sent her an e-mail asking for info, and the rest as they say “is history!”

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11 thoughts on “To All The Dolls I’ve Loved Before: Crissy and Velvet

  1. *jumps up and down* YAY! And that was the beginning of our beautiful friendship! I got Crissy (not the one I use on my blog), for Christmas when I was 4. My cousin, a few months older, got a black Velvet doll. I had such happy memories of that doll, that I got another one at a toy show, along w/ a Beauty Braider Velvet, a Look-Around Crissy (who needs repairing), a black Crissy (whom I’ve named Sabrina, who needs new hair), and Kerry, (also needs new hair). On my blog, Crissy and Velvet are still cousins, but Kerry is Velvet’s 16 year old sister. I love incorporating the past w/ the present. When I first got Julie, Crissy was her only friend. I thought maybe I’d get Mia, as Crissy sister, but it’s a little late in the game for that. I wish I could use these dolls more on my blog, but finding clothes (even handmade ones) for these dolls gets rather expensive. But I’m glad they can make appearances now and then. Thanks for sharing this, Flo. Crissy was a very special part of my childhood.

    • I’m glad you brought up the clothing issue, I’m curious as to if AG and related clothing is too big or too small for them? I remember them having fairly slender bodies. Somewhere in my searches I did come across with someone selling an old doll clothing pattern for them, but at a crazy price.

      • AG (and the like) clothing is too big for these dolls. Carpatina pants are too big, but some tops will fit. I have found some clothes for them on Ebay and Etsy, but not nearly as much as my modern-day 18 inch dolls have.

  2. I to have had a life long love of dolls. When I was 10 years old my parents bought Velvet for my 9 year old sister from the sears catalog . I fell in love with her. She had a pretty lavender,floral print dress. My parents didn’t get a doll for me because they thought I might not appreciate one any more. I loved my sisters doll so much that my parents did something that I believe they never did before or since. They allowed me to do extra chores to earn the money so I could order my own Velvet. Finally the anticipated day came and Velvet arrived. I tore through the packaging,so excited to finally get her. . . But I was in for a sad surprise. I guess sears ran out of the lavender outfit. My velvet wore a purple velvet dress and purple shoes. I loved her and still have her but I still have never gotten over the switch in outfits. I even tried to trade dolls and or outfits with my sister.

  3. I had a red-haired Crissy when I was little. She was handed down to me from my babysitter’s daughters. Loved her! Especially the hair making it longer and shorter. I can still hear the mechanism work as you pulled it after pushing the button. My grammy made her a few more outfits. Her shoes were adorable. I still have her.

    Not sure if I mentioned it here or elsewhere that she was hidden from me in the basement. I thought my mom had sold her in a yard sale. When I found her (and the others) I was really happy until I noticed her eyes went white. 😦

    I still love her and still have her. Any suggestions on fixing her eyes?

  4. That commercial is priceless. :). Isn’t it amazing how a love for dolls can just stick with you after all these years? I don’t ever remember having that type of doll growing up. We had tons of Barbies and more animal type stuffed animals and figures. I think that was more the trend in the 80s. I had wanted an American girl really badly as a girl though, but they were not in my parents budget. Now As an adult, I own 4 and I am just as fascinated with them as I think I would’ve been back then 🙂

    • I was never into baby dolls, but I did enjoy dolls that were little girls and upwards in age. I have gone through stages with them over the years, but I definitely have learned to appreciate them much more now than I did in say my 20’s or early 30’s. I think if American Girl had been available when I was the right age, my mom would have been broke. It was bad enough with Barbie!

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